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Guardiola right to row back on Man City empty stadium comments

3:00 PM MYT 29/01/2020
Pep Guardiola Etihad Stadium
The Spaniard says he understands the difficulties for fans after appearing unhappy with FA Cup crowd at the Etihad Stadium

Empty seats at Manchester City has long been a source of jibes from rival fans. When Pep Guardiola adds to the criticism it doesn't go down well with home supporters.

Despite it being the third-biggest attendance of the round, with more than 39,000 inside the Etihad Stadium on Sunday for the lunchtime fourth round FA Cup clash with Championship side Fulham, Guardiola seemed unhappy with the crowd.

"Hopefully more people can come than today, hopefully [they] can support us more," the City boss said after the 4-0 victory. "I don't know the reason why, but it was not full."

Some City fans were put out by his comments. The official supporters' club accused him of being "out of touch" because of the cost of supporting the club.

The club, at least, are more understanding of the financial demands on fans. Because of City's cup success, local fans have had to pay for four extra matches in the space of a month.

Wednesday's Carabao Cup semi-final against Manchester United is the sixth match at the 55,000-capacity Etihad Stadium since Christmas. There have also been trips to Wolves, Old Trafford, Aston Villa and Sheffield United in that time frame.

Some tickets are still available in the top tiers for the derby match, with City holding a 3-1 advantage from their first leg. A crowd of around 51,000 is expected.

The first leg at Old Trafford wasn't a sell-out either with 7,000 empty seats. Both clubs have agreed to stick to the usual Premier League allocations for away fans even though there are usually bigger quotas for cup games.

Guardiola did at least row back on on his comments ahead of Wednesday’s game, insisting that he understood the difficulties that fans have. But the City boss wants to see the stadium full for every fixture and said it is up to the players to make matches unmissable for the fans.

“First of all, of course I understand it. Never was it my intention to offend them,” he said. “They are part of us.

“But since I arrived here from day one until the last day what I want is to fight and play as good as possible to see the Etihad Stadium full every single game.

“It belongs to us to play good to seduce them to come because the only reason why we do our job and I do my job is not for the titles, it’s to go to the Etihad Stadium and see it is absolutely full with people, together, enjoying games. But of course I understand it’s difficult for the people to do that.”

City have the fifth-highest average attendance in the Premier League with the stadium operating at around 98 per cent capacity. But that drops for Champions League games with just over 52,000 arriving for the first clash with Shakhtar Donetsk and just under 50,000 for the matches with Atalanta and Dinamo Zagreb.

However, the club are confident that the last-16 clash with Real Madrid will be completely sold out once the last tranche of tickets are finally made available.

Fans' relationships with Europe have not always been the strongest, with a perception of injustice from UEFA over the way the club have been treated. But Guardiola has in the past urged fans to do everything to support City in the Champions League and to put their indifference to the competition behind them. He reiterated that point again, insisting the supporters can make a huge difference.

“We try to do our best to let them be proud of our team but I will try it again to push them to be with us as much as possible,” the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss added. “If it is possible to be every single game full, full, full, it will be better because it’s the sense to do something for our people and I know how to appreciate them because I know how many people come when we play away.

“I know them, we feel them, they chant and it is so nice to have them outside and I know for them it’s not easy, that is why I will always be grateful to the support.”

Guardiola has said in recent weeks that his players face too many games, particularly if they are to compete in the major competitions. The same may just be true for the fans.